Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Flower of the Day

This beauty is Opuntia macrocentra, also known as purple prickly pear cactus. I love it since it is purple! Purple is my favorite color...or should I say, among my favorite colors. This is the first time I've seen it flower. Only one flower bud so far.

Native Fave of Mine and Hummers

This is Justicia palmeri--a native shrub which, left on its own, blooms in summer and fall with the rains. In my garden it likes semi-shade, though I have seen it on rocky exposed slopes where cows love to munch on it. It might bloom year round with extra water. It benefits from native brutality (hacking it back to stubs once a year). It will grow to 4-5 feet without brutality. It is transplantable--I cut the tops off and keep as much soil with the roots as possible. You can also propagate it by layering. That means bending a branch to the ground, putting some soil over the branch and putting a rock on top to keep it all submerged. If it gets some water, rootlets will sprout within a month and you can eventually separate it from the parent plant. Now, I can recognize seedlings so I just transplant them. Understandably, the hummers love this plant as much as I do.

Spiny-tail Iguana

I've encountered this young iguana repeatedly in or around a large mesquite near the house. It allowed me to creep closer and closer until I was only one foot away. Spiny-tails are found on the Pacific coast of Mexico and in Baja. They live in hollow branches, rock piles, crevices, and pipes will do in a pinch. They are surpisingly agile in trees, jumping limb to limb, but have unimpressive ground speed. This one was munching on portulaca leaves before climbing up the rock. They are said to be primarily herbivores, but capable of eating small animals.

In the fall, the hatchlings are bright parrot-green with dark charcoal bands on their back. These green babies fit right into the jungly rain-induced vegetation. With a few months, their green skin morphs to gray tones as the land dries and plants shed their leaves. I suspect this one (at 14" or so) hatched last summer. I rarely see big iguanas--they can reach 4', but I am filled with joy to see any spiny-tail iguana. For me, they are a touchstone--I'm always surprised and delighted that they continue to live nearby.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Photography- My Faves

Please check out my favorite photographs, all taken with my Nikon digital cameras (the Coolpix 995 died, replaced with a Coolpix 4500). Getting film developed when living in a remote beach village is not appealing. Without digital photography I would never have photographed anything. Now, I can print archival prints up to 13" wide with amazing quality.

This is a Hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus brandegeii). It's native, has flower buds now, and will bloom in July. Truly magnficent.

House Finch Eggs

We have a palapa (palm thatch) roof. Every spring, the orioles industriously weave elaborate hanging nests in the dangling palm fringe on roof's edge (safe from cat claws). They only use the nest for one season, and house finches frequently squat in the abandoned nest. They add a bit of fiber and fluff and lay their eggs.

Flower of the Day

Many cactus flowers only last one day. That means that you have to really take time to appreciate them. This inspired the "Flower of the Day". That means that I try to look at it repeatedly and to show the flower to anyone and everyone I can on its special day.

Prickly Paint Update

Well, I soaked my sliced-up prickly pear paddles for 3-4 days and strained the ooze through cheesecloth. The slimy liquid went in the blender with a spoonful of yellow ochre. I prepared a second batch with red iron oxide powder. I painted it on the back wall of the garage over very faded yellow- orange latex paint. In the photo, see yellow ochre ( left), and red iron oxide (right). The dried (vs. wet) cactus paint was much lighter in color with a matt surface. When I rubbed it, some powder came off on my fingers. But, the next day..... to my great surprise, hardly any rubbed off! Later, I rubbed linseed oil over some areas to make it weatherproof, and glossier. The linseed area is the darker part of the photo's mid-lower area. Overall, I'm encouraged and have another pail of cactus juice brewing. I learned that you can't let it sit around for 5-6 days or the stench is unforgetable. Maybe I should try freezing any extra.....

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Mosaic Garden

I'm interested in grouping more of the same succulent together in a mosaic effect. This area was replanted a couple of months ago.

Rats Need to Eat Too

Our morning ritual includes cappuccino, the tinkling sounds of the fountain, mixed seeds on the ground for the doves and quail, and sunflower seeds in the treehouse for the cardinals, jays, etc. Well......we have a new guest. I guess it's ok as long as it stays outside. Recently, we had one in the house that chewed TV wires (no loss), our referigerator cables (big problem, but was repaired), and holes in a down sofa pillow. Oh, I forgot--tennis socks too. After several days of hilarious and embarrassing effort, it was permanently apprehended.


Agave flower spike grows inches each day. The main plant will die after it flowers, but new plants have sprouted from the base already to take over.

Green Angels Share Nectar

Bees are all abuzz at the nearby Palo Brazil tree and quickly found our homemade hummingbird feeders. There is major Xantus Hummingbird action at the feeders. We call them the Green Angels with their daredevil acrobatic stunts.

Natives Thrive on Brutality

Many Baja native plants in the garden benefit from ruthless pruning. Without pruning, they become leggy, especially after the rains. Late spring/early summer is a good time to attack them.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Portulaca Cuttings

A new fave--Portulaca cuttings. Tell time by the flowers opening around 10am. Make more by chopping pieces and planting non-tip end in soil. Roots form in days. Clone zillions.

Prickly Paint?

Rancheros from old Baja used to (and some probably still) make whitewash paint from prickly pear cactus slime, lime (not the kind from trees, but calcium hydroxide) and salt. I found a recipe on the web a couple of days ago, marched out to the garden with my pruning saw and hacked up some paddles to soak. The water is supposed to get slimy--slime equals glue, I think. Maybe it's slimy. When I dip my hand in, the liquid comes off in an even stream, not in drips like water. I don't have any lime yet, and need more salt. Of course, I would never be satisfied with white, but plan to use red iron oxide powder, yellow ochre, or pick up some red clay by the roadside. Stay tuned.

Papayas Like it Hot

Starting in January, I kept throwing fresh papaya seeds off the patio into a moist spot, but nary a single seed germinated. Finalmente, in May they all popped up. Hopefully, in a year we'll be able to eat our own ripe, juicy papayas.

Nuevo Amigo

Years ago we put chicken wire up around the base of our fences to keep rabbits out. Guess what--it keeps them in too. We've seen Bun Bun for a couple of months in our property and our first reaction was to act scary and shoo him/her away--him/her is not afraid. We had a recent change of heart/mind and realized Bun Bun is cool to have around, like the birds. He/she hasn't eaten anything valuable yet.

Friday, June 03, 2005

June Mangos?

Cherries used to be a seasonal touchstone, but mangos are replacing it. Maybe some of these from our tree will be ripe in two weeks?